Adventures in Ultrasound

>I have a paying job…a few actually…none of which include writing at the moment. Realistically, even if I were to sell a manuscript, or two, or three, I most likely wouldn’t quit that day job. One, I doubt I’d make enough money to warrant quitting. Two, I really like the people I work with. And three, my patients give me a lot of character and plot material.

I’m a sonographer (A.K.A., ultrasound technologist). Currently I work at a radiology clinic, but I’ve worked many places in my fifteen years including fertility clinics, general hospitals, trauma centers, and teaching hospitals.

It occured to me that sharing some of the sometimes strange, occasionally bizzare, often amusing situations I encounter in my work might also offer others insight into human nature (or my interpretation of it) and the medical setting.

Today was one of those days that started to unravel before it even began…but I’ll just go with the highlight: my ten o’clock patient, a sweet, sweet, sweet woman with liver problems who comes in every week for a paracentesis–drainage of the fluid that builds up in her abdomen due to poor liver function. The doctor inserts the tube into her abdomen and I sit with her while the fluid drains. We chat, I change bottles, knit, cut out letters… When as much fluid that will come out has come out, I remove the tube, bandage her up and send her on her way.
Everything went as smooth as usual. Except…when I pulled out the tube, it caught on the edge of her skin and flicked up, spitting fluid and blood across my face and into my eye. In case you’re not familiar with medical details, this is as good as getting stuck with a dirty needle.

Which has never happened to me in fifteen years of medical facility exposure. I’ve worked in the E.R., the O.R., post op, bone marrow transplant units, trauma wards. Never have I come in contact with blood or other bodily fluids–which will remain nameless.

Needless to say…I freaked. Not on the outside. On the outside, I calmly wiped my face (she had been resting during the hour-long procedure and had her eyes closed), cleaned up my patient, bandanged her tightly so she wouldn’t leak leftover fluid, and sent her on her way with our usual hug and a promise to see her the following week.

On the inside, I panicked. My mind raced over her medical history–no hep C, no AIDs. Her fluid build up stemmed from cirrhosis with an underlying condition that wasn’t contageous. I lucked out in that department. But she had battled Valley Fever for years and had an active node on her lung. Shit. Shit, shit shit.

Today, I lived what I write about-fear, stress, confusion. I broke into a sweat. I was so hot, I could feel the heat rising off my body, up my neck, over my face. My hands started to shake, and I couldn’t stop them. My brain swung and twisted in twenty different directions. I couldn’t hold one solid thought. What thoughts I did hold bounced like a rubber ball. Rational went out the window. Will I get sick? Should I go for tests? What kind of tests? I have patients, when can I go for tests? Now or when I’m done? What should I do? Who should I ask? Will I look like an idiot if I’m worried about this? Will I look like an idiot if I’m not?

I flushed my eye and searched out my bosses–Is this bad? How bad? What do I do now? The radiologist called her buddy the infectious disease guy, who sent me for a battery of blood tests, which have to be redone in six weeks–full hepatitis panel, AIDs testing, Valley Fever panel (can’t remember the name).

I’m fine now. With a splinter of rational thought back, I know the chances are incredibly slim that anything will come of this. But it was another interesting chunk of information I’ll take to the page with me next time I write about a situation involving those emotions.

That’s all for today’s adventure in ultrasound.

What experiences have you had in life that have helped you in your writing adventures?

4 Responses to Adventures in Ultrasound